Thursday, June 12, 2014

From Shadows to Spotlights

What an exciting time of year for sports fans. We are witnessing a massive collision of huge sporting events with global followings.

As I write this on Thursday, 12 June 2014 the following events will take place today:
  • Day One of the US Open (golf);
  • Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat;
  • And in a couple of hours the first game of the 2014 World Cup will kickoff in Brazil.
  • Also, tomorrow the NY Rangers and LA Kings will play Game 5 of the NHL Finals.
This all comes on the back of Rafael Nadal winning a record 9th French Open (tennis) this past weekend and in a couple of weeks Wimbledon will be upon us just as the World Cup group stage concludes.

In the meantime, other leagues (Major League Baseball, Rugby & Aussie Rules) continue their regular seasons.

As the passion for these major sporting events ramps up only to suddenly disappear when the final whistle blows, I'm drawn to compare the hype to the manner many of us approach church involvement.

As a minister I understand all to well the appeal of the latest flash marketing of a new approach to a particular ministry. We launch a new small group ministry with fireworks and a smoke machine and six months later we're pumping up our Children's Ministry, then summer hits and we encourage EVERYONE to involve themselves in a service activity over the next 3 months.

Sports organizations market themselves to capture the biggest audience at the biggest moments. The NBA doesn't care that much how many people watch the Timberwolves vs Charlotte in November, but they sure want a huge audience come May and June. Despite the marketing, the truth is that the parts we don't see, the off season, the gym sessions, the mundane games early in the season, all form the foundation for what occurs in the spotlight.

The World Cup (and Olympics) manage their biggest moments incredibly well. Because their event only take place every four years demand and anticipation builds. By limiting the number of teams eligible for the World Cup, the various qualifying tournaments also garner attention and build the momentum of expectations. Because they're national teams you automatically gain huge audiences whenever a nation qualifies for the tournament. If China or India ever qualify... BOOM...there's at least half a Billion eyeballs!!!

How big is the World Cup? Check out this chart!!!

Churches often do a great job of recruiting volunteers for special events, but what we really seek are disciples of Jesus committed to working in a ministry to make sure those highlights occur. I often get to baptise someone in front of the church after I've studied the Bible with that person several times. But I'd never have met that person if the daughter of the person she did housekeeping for didn't invite her and give her a ride to church each Sunday.

We love to watch our children perform at the end of the year and show the songs they've learned and Scriptures they've memorised and people they've helped throughout the year. But so many of those people who watch the "adorable children" and pat them on the back at the end of the year are nowhere to be found when recruiting teachers for the next year begins.

Sports (and church) can easily teach us to value the spotlight above the shadows, but God seeks servants willing to work in the shadows. Then sometimes He may shine the spotlight upon them.

Jesus himself demonstrates this value as he was born in a stable not a palace. Lived for a while as a refugee, not a celebrity. Worked as a carpenter, not a statesman. Ministered in Galilee, not Rome. Died with people cheering, not mourning. But then God revealed his deity as he rolled back the stone from the tomb and gave him victory over death.

From shadows to light.

It's how Jesus lived, and how we should also.

Don't get sidetracked chasing spotlights.

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